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The Prophecies of Neferti (1.45)

(3,025 words)

Author(s): Shupak, Nili
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; “Prophecy” Commentary The single complete version of this composition is preserved on Pap. Petersburg 1116B which derives from the 18th Dynasty. This is augmented by fragments preserved on writing tablets and ostraca. “The Prophecies of Neferti” is a political document which was apparently composed in the court of the King Amenemhet I (1990–1960 bce) who is here cast in the role of a redeemer-king. The text is introduced by a narrative frame, setting th…

From Coffin Texts Spell 75 (1.5)

(1,667 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Spells 75–81 of the Coffin Texts, which identify the deceased as a manifestation (ba) of the first element of the world (Shu), are a major source for the evolutionary view of creation promulgated in Heliopolis. In at least two mss (S1C and S2C), these seven spells were treated as a single text, with the title “Spell of the ba of Shu and evolution into Shu” (CT I 314a). Spell 75, one of the most frequently copied of all Coffin Texts, describes the …

From Coffin Texts Spell 76 (1.6)

(952 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text continues the tale of Shu’s birth by describing how the structure of the world-space and its contents derive from the initial creation of the atmosphere. It also contains one of the first references to the four negative qualities of the primordial waters, later developed by the theologians of Hermopolis into a cosmogony of four divine couples, the Ogdoad. From Coffin Texts Spell 76 (1.6) Subject: Deut 30:4; Isa 44:2, 24; 49:5; Job 31:5; Gen 1:2; 2 Sa…

The Famine Stela (1.53)

(3,441 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary The inscription is carved in thirty–two columns on the face of a granite rock where it was given the shape of a rectangular stela. The rock face is split by a broad horizontal fissure, which already existed when the inscription was carved. After the carving, further ruptures occurred in the rock, and they have caused a number of textual lacunae. Above the text is a relief scene…

From the “Memphite Theology” (1.15)

(1,859 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary Perhaps the most famous of all Egyptian creation accounts is preserved on a worn slab of black granite, created for erection in the temple of Ptah at Memphis during the reign of the Nubian pharaoh Shabaqo and now in the British Museum (BM 498). As its dedicatory text records, the stone was purportedly inscribed in order to preserve a much older document, probably on papyrus or leather; lacunae deliberately incorporated in th…

The Admonitions of an Egyptian Sage: The Admonitions of Ipuwer (1.42)

(4,124 words)

Author(s): Shupak, Nili
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; “Prophecy” Commentary The “Admonitions” was composed during the First Intermediate period (c.a. 2000 bce) or the late Middle Kingdom.1 The text is preserved on Papyrus Leiden 344, dating to the 18th or 19th Dynasty (1580–1200 bce). The original composition contained a narrative frame which has been lost, and which established the setting of the utterances of the sage as a council at the royal court, in a manner similar to that of the “…

Karnak List (1.37A)

(279 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography 1. Karnak List (1.37A) A small chapel once stood in Thutmose III’s Akh–menu temple complex at Karnak. Over 150 years ago it was removed to the Louvre in Paris. While its list is offertory in nature, it is made up of seated figures of the kings with various regal titles before the cartouche. The names are grouped in eight parts, but the particular alignments are not always clear. The importance of…

Prayer to Re-harakhti (1.29)

(770 words)

Author(s): Fox, Michael V.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Prayers Commentary This is an individual supplication in a fairly stereotypic form, probably designed for use by different people in various situations. The worshipper asks for acceptance of his prayers without praying for anything in particular and confesses his sins and folly without reference to specific transgressions. The worshipper seems to be a pilgrim to the temple at Heliopolis. The prayer is an expression of “personal piety,” a form of relig…

4. Turin Canon (1.37D)

(1,131 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary Located in the Museo Egizio in Turin, Italy, this papyrus is the most important source for the historical and chronological reconstruction of ancient Egypt. It is more than a list. Rather it originally contained a sequence of kings from Dynasty 1, with regnal years assigned to each king. Beginning with Menes (Meni), it continues down to the 19th Dynasty, the period to which this pap…

From Coffin Texts Spell 335 = Book of the Dead Spell 17 (1.10)

(1,629 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This spell, the most frequently copied of all major Egyptian funerary texts, equates the deceased’s passage from the tomb to daylight with the sun’s journey from night to day, a theme summarized in its title. It originated in the Coffin Texts and was subsequently incorporated in their New Kingdom descendant, the so-called Book of the Dead, which was known by the same title. Almost fro…

The Two Brothers (1.40)

(4,367 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Narratives Commentary This is a complex and vivid tale, rich in motifs that have parallels in later literatures. The two protagonists have some connection with a myth of the two gods, Anubis and Bata, that was told as a tradition of the Seventeenth Nome of Upper Egypt. The myth is preserved in a late form in the Papyrus Jumilhac (see Vandier 1962). More important than the mythological connection is the …

Sinuhe (1.38)

(5,660 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Narratives Commentary The numerous, if fragmentary, copies of this work testify to its great popularity, and it is justly considered the most accomplished piece of Middle Kingdom prose literature. The two principal manuscripts are: (1) P. Berlin 3022 (abbr., B) which dates from the 12th Dynasty. In its present state, it lacks the beginning of the story and contains a total of 311 lines; (2) P. Berlin 10499 (abbr., R) which contai…

From Papyrus Bremner-Rhind (1.9)

(1,260 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The papyrus from which this text is taken (pBM 10188) is a collection of theological treatises and magic spells against the dangers of the Netherworld (represented in sum by the demon Apophis), compiled from various sources at the beginning of the Ptolemaic Period. This selection, originally composed perhaps as early as the Ramesside Period, describes the evolution of multiplicity fro…

2. Abydos List (al) (1.37B)

(382 words)

Contributor(s): Hallo, William W.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary In the cenotaph of Seti I at Abydos, which was completed by Ramesses II, is found a sequential list of kings from Dynasty 1 through reigning monarch Seti of Dynasty 19. To the left of the list, stand Seti and crown–prince Ramesses who holds a papyrus containing the list that is recorded to the right. The accompanying inscription indicates that the list was made up of the beneficiari…

The Song From the Tomb of Neferhotep (1.31)

(729 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Harpers’ Songs Commentary When they first appeared in the Middle Kingdom, the texts known as Harper’s Songs were designed to praise death and the life after death. But in the famous Harper’s Song from the Tomb of King Intef, preserved in a papyrus copy, the praises of the afterlife were replaced by anxious doubts about its reality, and by the advice to make merry while alive and to shun the thought of death.…

From the “Book of Nut” (1.1)

(1,472 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text consists of a series of captions accompanying the image of the goddess Nut stretched out as a representation of the sky, held off the earth by the atmosphere (Shu). Originally perhaps of Middle Kingdom composition, it appears on ceilings of the cenotaph of Seti I (Dynasty 19, ca. 1291–1279 bce) at Abydos and the tomb of Ramesses IV (Dynasty 20, ca. 1163–1156 bce) at Thebes; the texts were also copied, with exegesis, in two Demotic papyri…

From Coffin Texts Spell 647 (1.12)

(1,287 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary The conceptual link between the creator’s fiat and its material realization in the forces and elements of the world was conceptualized by the theologians of Memphis in the creative role of their god Ptah. The earliest exposition of this theology appears in Spell 647 of the Coffin Texts. Attested in only one copy, it is a long spell identifying the deceased with all aspects of the Memphite god. The excerpts below concern Ptah’s role in the creation. From Coffin…

The Legend of the Possessed Princess (“Bentresh Stela”) (1.54)

(1,808 words)

Author(s): Lichtheim, Miriam
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Individual Focus; Pseudepigrapha Commentary A stela of black sandstone, 2.×.09 m, found in 1829 in a small, no longer extant, Ptolemaic sanctuary near the temple of Khons erected at Karnak by Ramses III. The stela was brought to Paris in 1844. The scene in the lunette shows King Ramses II offering incense before the bark of Khons–in–Thebes–Neferhotep. Behind the king, a priest offers incense before the smaller bark of Kh…

From Coffin Texts Spell 78 (1.7)

(419 words)

Author(s): Allen, James P.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Divine Focus; Cosmologies Commentary This text follows Coffin Texts Spell 76 after a few lines (Spell 77) that describe the birth of Shu through the combined metaphors of masturbation and spitting. The major theme in Spell 78 is the identification of this event with the evolution of Time in its two aspects: the permanent pattern of existence, identified with Tefnut; and the eternal repetition of life, identified with Shu. From Coffin Texts Spell 78 (1.7) Shu as the atmosphere ( CT II 19a-b) I am t…

King Lists (1.37)

(563 words)

Author(s): Hoffmeier, James K.
Subject: Canonical Compositions from the Biblical World; Egyptian Canonical Compositions; Royal Focus; Historiography Commentary King–lists of various types abound in ancient Egyptian sources. Technically, a collection of three or more names is a “group” and a true king–list arranges names in proper historical order and provides the length of reign. Following this definition, the only Egyptian source that meets these requirements is the Turin Canon, and it is not fully preserved. Nevertheless, the term king–l…
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